Muslim Rebels, RP Troops Continue Operation To Free Kidnapped Italian Prelate

June 21, 2007 at 7:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 21 Jun) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels on Thursday continue working alongside with Filipino troops in searching for a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest in the troubled southern region of Mindanao.

Marine Major General Mohammad Dolorfino said the MILF has ceased assisting government efforts to locate Fr Giancarlo Bossi, from Milan.

He said the ad hoc joint action group, which authorizes the MILF to help in fighting criminalities and terrorism in areas where they are actively operating, has expired.

Unless it is renewed, the MILF cannot help in the rescue efforts, he said.

“On the part of the MILF, they have to stop active involvement in the meantime because if they are on the ground without coordination, there might be accidental encounters with government troops,” Dolorfino said.

Bossi, 57, was kidnapped June 10 after celebrating mass in the coastal town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province and taken to Lanao del Norte province in the Muslim autonomous region.

But Mohagher Iqbal, a senior MILF rebel leader, said his group is still helping security forces track down the kidnappers and their hostage.

“There is no truth to reports that we have stopped in assisting the Philippine government in the search for the kidnapped priest. The joint rescue operation is going on,” Iqbal told the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the MILF decision to continue the rescue operation is based on humanitarian grounds.

“Freeing Father Bossi is founded mainly on humanitarian ground and also in furtherance of the gains of the peace process,” he said. “The life of man is of paramount importance over procedural matter.”

The kidnappers have demanded one million dollars in exchange for the safe release of Bossi, a member of the Rome-based Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions.

Police tagged Akiddin Abdusallam, a rogue MILF leader, as behind Bossi’s kidnapping, a charge strongly denied by Iqbal.

He said Abdusallam is a member of the Abu Sayyaf group which has ties with the al-Qaeda terror network and largely blamed for the spate of bombings and kidnappings of foreigners in Mindanao.

The MILF is currently negotiating with the Philippine government for a separate Muslim homeland in the restive, but mineral-rich Mindanao region.

Dolorfino said the safety of the hostage is the primary concern of the military and that there is an ongoing negotiation to secure Bossi’s freedom without paying ransom.

“Our primary consideration is Bossi’s safety. We will exert all peaceful means to resolve the matter,” he said.

The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions has expressed concern over the fate of Bossi, who is said to be suffering from hypertension. It also appealed to the public for any information about the priest. (Juley Reyes, Joseph Danda and Juan Magtanggol)

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